February is Mend a Broken Heart month, but no, it isn’t about sending flowers to friends who are mourning a break-up. This awareness campaign is sponsored by My Stuff Bags Foundation, an organization that supports America’s children who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned by the very people who should love them most. These children leave their homes, often entering crisis shelters and foster care with no personal belongings, and this organization partners with social service agencies to provide basic necessities to these children.
Tragically, too many of today’s youth experience abuse and neglect, and many are homeless. To commemorate Mend a Broken heart month, we’re promoting ways in which you can help these teens and spotlighting young adult fiction that deals with the difficulties they face.
There are many factors that contribute to homelessness among teenagers. Differences and disagreements with parents and guardians can lead youth to leave home, as can abuse and neglect. Many run away or are kicked out of the home. There are numerous young adult novels that deal with teens in these circumstances. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and their experiences are represented in young adult fiction as well.
- The Right & the Real by JoÃ«lle Anthony follows Jamie, who must learn to survive on her own after being kicked out of her house for refusing to join a cult-like church.
- Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cuppala is about Joy, a girl who runs away from her overprotective parents and emotionally abusive boyfriend to live on the streets of Seattle.
- Money Boy by Paul Yee is about an immigrant who struggles with his identity. He’s kicked out of his home when his father catches him surfing gay websites and is forced to survive on his on in Toronto.
- Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton is a graphic novel about the homeless on the streets of New York City and a tour of the world right in front of people’s eyes that many choose not to see.
- Dead to You by Lisa McMann is a story about Ethan, a boy who was abducted and then abandoned as a young child, and who is now reunited with his family — though being home doesn’t automatically solve all his problems.
- Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe follows Maya, who grew up on the streets with her father, who lands in prison. When the foster care system fails her, she runs away to try to find her aunt.
- Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick is the story of Amber, a girl who manages to teach Korean immigrants English and visit the elderly in nursing homes despite living in a school bus with her unfit mother.
- Can’t Get there from Here by Todd Strasser follows a girl named Maybe as she ponders her future and longs for someone to care about her while living on the streets.
- The Opposite of Love by Helen Benedict is about Madge, a girl who “adopts” an abandoned young boy in an attempt to make the world a better place.
For more information about homeless youth and what you can do to help, check out the National Coalition for the Homeless and Safe Horizon. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) connect caring adults with children in the foster care or legal system to provide support and mentoring. Stand Up for Kids is a national organization committed to helping street youth. Organizations like the Maslow Project help homeless youth overcome barriers to their success. Volunteering or donating funds to organizations likes these can make a big difference in the lives of homeless and abused children.
— Molly Wetta, currently reading Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge (and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which should only take the next 10 weeks)